White House to fight ruling blocking asylum rule

WASHINGTON -- The White House said on Thursday it would fight a federal judge's decision blocking the Trump administration from enforcing a new rule that aimed to bar almost all asylum applications at the U.S.-Mexico border.

U.S. District Judge Jon Tigar in the Northern District of California on Wednesday issued a preliminary injunction blocking the rule, which would require asylum-seekers to first pursue safe haven in a third country they had traveled through on their way to the United States.

"We intend to pursue all available options to address this meritless ruling and to defend this Nation’s borders," the White House said in a statement.

The San Francisco court means the rule will be suspended pending further proceedings. It was not clear what steps the Trump administration planned to take to fight the ruling.

Lawyers said the California ruling makes inconsequential a ruling by U.S. District Judge Timothy Kelly in Washington, D.C., earlier in the day that declined to block the rule in a different lawsuit brought by immigration advocacy groups.

The White House had praised that earlier ruling.

It complained on Thursday that plaintiffs should not be able to shop for a judge "who will purport to dictate immigration policy to the entire Nation."

The new rule, announced July 15, required asylum-seekers to have first applied for asylum and been rejected in one of the countries they traveled through before becoming eligible to apply in the United States, shifting the burden to ill-equipped countries such as Mexico and Guatemala to process asylum claims.

After the White House announced the rule on July 16, the American Civil Liberties Union and other rights groups sued in California on the grounds it violates U.S. law that welcomes those who come to the United States fleeing persecution at home.

The asylum rule was one of a series of anti-immigration edicts issued by the Trump administration recently as it seeks to stem the flow of migrants arriving at the border with Mexico after fleeing violence and poverty in countries including Guatemala, Honduras and El Salvador. It has characterized the vast majority of their asylum claims as bogus.

Opponents said the United States cannot force migrants to first apply for asylum in another country, such as Mexico or Guatemala, unless Washington first has a "safe third country" agreement with that government. Both Mexico and Guatemala have resisted Trump administration efforts to reach such a deal. (Reporting by Doina Chiacu Editing by Nick Zieminski)

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